Opinion: Embracing immigrants

POSTED: 10/1/12 12:40 PM

In old murder mysteries it was usually the butler who had done it. In these times of stress and bloated egos the foreigner is more often than not seen as the cause of everything that is wrong in a country.

Leopold James who, just like this newspaper, wants the best for the people on our island, had done his share of foreigner-bashing. Especially illegal immigrants are the target of his wrath.

In the Netherlands, Turkish and Moroccan immigrants have usually done it. In Greece, it’s the Albanians. In Scotland, the English. In England, the Scottish. In California it’s the Mexicans. And in St. Maarten it’s the Jamaicans and the good people from the Dominican Republic and Dominica.

Remarkably, you never hear anybody complain about immigrants from St. Kitts, while this island has provided us with some of the most notorious criminals.
But again, one does not solve crime by kicking all immigrants out of a country. Such a solution sounds of course attractive (because it seems to be such an easy solution), but even in a country with zero immigrants crime will persist.

It is also easy to make crime an issue between haves and have-nots. That is also a wrong approach. Being poor does not necessarily mean that all poor people become criminals. We have traveled through parts of Africa where some people had less in their own house if they had a house) than the average St. Maartener has in a kitchen drawer. Did these people all choose for a criminal career?

They did not. Some of these people invited us into their homes to share a meal. And they were proud people, who had, in the western view, as close to absolutely nothing as one could possible get.

Now to get back to the immigrants in our country and the role they play or do not play in crime. Sure, some immigrants will commit crimes. In that respect they are no different than St. Maarteners – born and bred here. Some of them, as we have seen in recent criminal trials are psychopaths. Removing all immigrants from a country does not mean that there are no more psychopaths.

The thing is: it is easy to target immigrants. It’s the same as bullying a kid at school because it has red hair, because it wears glasses or because it has a brace.

If we compare an immigrant with an indigenous St. Maartener – the way one could compare, say, an Englishman with a Scotsman, a Dutchman with a German, and so on – it will become quickly clear that all these people have the same basic needs: food, shelter and company.

Where we have failed in our system is also clear: education. Look at what is going on in our schools. Only last week police spokesman Henson made some very clear statements about the behavior of students.

But that behavior has a root cause and that is, unfortunately, a place where nobody wants to go. It all begins at home, but it does not stop there. If schools made their programs interesting kids would not behave the way they do. They would hang on every word and have a good time at school. That this is not the case – at least not in all schools – is a sign that the education system is broken.

That is where the main effort will have to be made to turn things around. Educate the next generation, inspire the youth, offer them useful things to do also when they are not in school, and support their efforts in every field. That is the way to go.

Calling on the departure of immigrants is a negative message that will be badly understood by many. Children will understand that immigrants are bad, it will put a thought in their minds that could lead to all kinds of disastrous events – from bullying to murder.

Should we then open our borders and let anybody and everybody in? That seems in itself a bad idea, but the reality is: this is already happening, because the borders of St. Maarten are leaking like a sieve. Sealing the country is impossible – it is something no country has ever managed to do. Even when Berlin was divided by that communist wall, people managed to get across to the other side. The border between Mexico and the United States is another example: in spite of all the efforts, including a ridiculous plan to build a wall along the southern border, the Mexicans keep coming in. The smart ones save their money for a plane ticked and they fly to the destination of their choice in comfort.

Many of these Mexican immigrants contribute to the society they live in and yes, there are criminals among them too.

It is one of these facts of life that seems to have no solution. If people want to go somewhere, they will get there. So the best thing to do is to embrace those immigrants instead of despising them.

In the meantime, get that education system up to scratch and St. Maarten will have a wonderful future ahead of it.

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